Written by: Adam Vaughn | January 21st, 2021
Derek DelGaudio’s in & of Itself (Frank Oz, 2020) 3 out of 4 stars.
As a person with a theater-performance background, Derek DelGaudio’s in & of Itself, directed by Frank Oz (Muppet Guys Talking), was, in many ways, a breath of fresh air. DelGaudio leads a live audience-based production that delves into an extremely personal storytelling experience. Instantly, a bridge between DelGaudio and the audience begins to form, as DelGaudio not only presents tragic and reflective moments in his personal life, but connects with each and every audience member through an interactive series of sleight-of-hand tricks and mesmerizing visual elements.
When viewed strictly as a performance piece, Derek DelGaudio’s in & of Itself is incredibly intellectual and engaging, and Derek DelGaudio as a performer blends heartfelt storytelling with optical illusion to keep the audience wondering where the night will take them. The various stages of the performance merge smoothly into each other, and the theme of identity should resonate as very timely and insightful for today’s viewer. Often, it feels as if the performance’s message impacts the live audience more than the home viewer, unfortunately, but overall the film offers a deep, personal connection, regardless of location.
Yet, as visually and emotionally compelling as Derek DelGaudio’s in & of Itself may be, I could not shake the inescapable distraction of the way the performance came across as a live-video recording. I found many of the camera movements and close-ups too disrupting to the illusion of the performance, distracting from the content in its attempt to dramatize via cinematic angles, rather than allowing the weight of the content carry the emotion. The intercutting of several nights’ performances side by side (the key audience-member moments rapidly changing between different people, for example) became disorienting, and made it difficult to follow for a television audience.
While it would be an extremely hard decision, perhaps sticking to one night for the film could keep the viewer more focused on the gripping content that Derek DelGaudio’s in & of Itself has to offer. I have absolutely no complaints witnessing this piece as a personal, live, audience-participation event, for surely this is when the film is at its best. Ironically, it seems small cinematic conventions are the thing keeping Frank Oz’s film from having a true sense of perfection.